Diabetes is a disease of impaired carbohydrate metabolism, this results from either the pancreas not producing insulin or the body not being able to utilize insulin properly. This hormone is what the body uses to convert food into energy, by facilitating the transfer of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. Of the 29.1 million people in the United States with diabetes, most have a genetic predisposition to the disease; however, lifestyle choices play a more prominent factor in people who develop the condition.
In order to control the disease, people use insulin injections, medication, along with diet and exercise regiments. Still, the careful balance of working to keep the blood sugar levels regulated can be taxing on the body both physically and emotionally. Some of the symptoms, such as nerve damage and swelling can result in consistent pain and discomfort.
Massage can be very beneficial for diabetics for body, mind, and spirit. Some of the benefits of massage in managing diabetes are: relaxation, circulation, aiding with mobility, preserving system function, and pain management.
Relaxation: Managing diabetes can be stressful. Monitoring blood sugar and taking medications like clockwork, being super regimented about the foods that one eats, and the general anxiety of how all of this fits into one’s everyday life and social interactions with others. Being able to have that peaceful time and the gentle, relaxing touch allows the nervous system to calm and the body to function without those stressors for a period of time.
Circulation: Although there is no consistent research about the long term circulation benefits of massage, the physical act of massaging the body helps to move the blood and lymph in the client. This uptake can help the body to better move the oxygenated, nutrient rich blood through the body helping to aid in the body’s ability to absorb properly what it needs.
Pain, Mobility, and Improved Function: Over time, the effects of diabetes can cause cells within the body and the nervous system to not function properly. Pain from nerve damage and structural dysfunction due to the thickening of connective tissues resulting from elevated blood sugar levels can make it challenging and painful to move. Massage can help to counteract these effects. Even when it is too painful for the client to be massaged traditionally, a method of massage known as reflexology can help by activating acupressure points on the feet and hands to stimulate different areas of the body. These points can also be used to stimulate the endocrine system and all of the organs associated with blood sugar levels and proper function.